Friday, February 20, 2009

Waiting for the Dry

Driving back to Cairns from Cooktown, I called in on a banana farm at Lakeland (~80km west of Cooktown) to enquire about work. I'd heard about this farm from a few people, including workers from there that were out on the weekend swimming and fishing. They employ a big mob of people including lots of backpackers. The long and the short of it is that I'll be heading out there again this weekend to start work! As I said previously, I'll wait until the roads and parks open up north of here then head off - in the meantime I'll make a bit of money and probably do a little travelling on the weekends. So expect to see only the odd post here during this time.

I'll be living in Lakeland, where there is a... ermm... rather limited range of recreational activities. So I've spent some time here in Cairns scouring the second-hand bookstores and Vinnies for reading material. Incidentally, I'm thoroughly enjoying the reading I'm doing - I put time aside to read almost every day. Currently I'm working through four books: The Future Eaters (Tim Flannery), Emma (Jane Austen), Beasts in my Belfry (Gerald Durrell) and selected stories by Henry Lawson. I'm finding Future Eaters to be an immensely interesting and important read. It raises and ties together so many concepts to think about that I actually find quite relevant to the varied ecosystems that I've been spending time in. I keep asking myself why I hadn't already read this book!

Well, I suppose I had better cut to the chase and talk about some animals!

The most interesting thing I've seen recently is the barred frog from the Carbine tablelands - Mixophyes carbinensis. An interesting frog, smaller than M. coggeri and schevilli, and to my eye, coloured quite distinctly too. I found this species in a beautiful little upland stream in the rainforest - the water was filled with the impressively large tadpoles (which are almost black in the daytime and fade to a grey by night). They swam languidly or rested on the clean gravel.

I picked up the eyeshine of a couple of the adults which were sitting on the leaf-litter and was very glad to see them. With this sighting I've now encountered on this trip the entire range of Mixophyes species in Australia - that is M. balbus, fasciolatus, fleayii, iteratus, coggeri, shevilli and carbinensis. They're all beautiful, special frogs.

Curiously, only about 5 km away, heading down the mountain, I came across one of the mottled barred frogs, Mixophyes coggeri. It would be interesting to know whether there's altitudinal separation of these species or whether they actually co-occur (certainly not altogether unreasonable - indeed three Mixophyes species coexist at a single site in the Watagans)

Some of the other things I've encountered include four death adders in one night (Acanthophis praelongusi), elvers (young eels) and shrimp climbing up a waterfall, a couple of beautiful coiled Amethyst pythons sitting beside tracks and the ridiculous spectacle of amplexing Stony Creek Frogs (Litoria wilcoxii/jungguy). It never gets old. See the gallery!

Death Adder

The only other encounter of note was that with a branch sticking out of the bush that I failed to see one night as I navigated around a big washout. I was given the pleasure of changing a tyre with a torn sidewall at night and shelling out for a replacement. It'll be good to get some money in my pockets again from working at Lakeland!


Snail said...

Bad luck about the tyre.

If you find a copy of 'Back o'Cairns' by Ion Idriess, it might be fun to read that while you're waiting for the rain to stop.

genghisprawn said...


Could you tell me a little more about the shrimp? Were they cherabin (Macrobrachium spp.) -- the long-armed sort?

David Nelson said...

Hey genghisprawn,
I have a photo in the gallery of the shrimp - here

genghisprawn said...

Thanks, David.

They look like they're from the family Atyidae (basket-handed shrimp).